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Less Common Complications of Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes is a complicated disease that affects many areas of a person’s life. In addition to managing their disease daily, many people living with diabetes must also deal with other complications that may be related.

Less common complications of type 2 diabetes

Here are a few of the less common complications of type 2 diabetes:

Tinnitus

Have you ever heard an annoying ringing or buzzing in your ear that would not go away? Chances are that was a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus is when your brain thinks you hear a sound that is not actually there. The sound itself can vary widely.1

High levels of insulin in the blood, or even some foods, can cause tinnitus or make it worse. This happens because the inner ear cannot make its own energy so it relies on the glucose in your blood. This means the inner ear can easily be affected by changes in blood sugar. Particularly when there are big dips or peaks in glucose levels that can happen with diabetes.1

There is no cure for tinnitus, but if you have diabetes, it can be managed, and controlling blood glucose levels can help.1

Depression

Living with a chronic condition like diabetes can be hard. It is not surprising that many people with diabetes also have depression. Depression is a common condition that affects about 10 percent of the world’s population. However, it is surprising that people with diabetes tend to experience depression twice as often as people without diabetes. Despite screening, depression is often underdiagnosed in people with diabetes. Up to 25 percent of people with diabetes show signs of depression.2

Such a large number means there is more than a coincidental connection between the two diseases. Scientists do not know exactly why this happens, but they theorize that it could be because of several reasons:2

  • biological components like hypothalamic problems
  • lifestyle, for example, lack of physical activity and/or poor diet
  • other risk factors, such as, inflammation and environmental

When someone has both diabetes and depression they tend to have worse symptoms and it can make treatment more complicated and expensive. People who have both conditions tend to have depressive episodes that last longer and occur more often. It is important to manage both diseases in order to find a healthy balance.2

Shoulder disorders

Another complication of diabetes that many people are not aware of is shoulder pain. Nearly 28 percent of people who have diabetes also have a shoulder disorder, compared to only 5 percent for people with general medical conditions. The most common conditions are frozen shoulder and rotator cuff disease. Shoulder pain can make everyday tasks more difficult and decreases quality of life.3

Scientists are not exactly sure why these disorders are more likely in people with diabetes. However, blood sugar levels can affect the whole cardiovascular system. So, it is believed that when glucose levels are not controlled it can harm the circulation around joints such as the shoulder and cause long-term damage.3

Sudden thigh pain

Poorly controlled diabetes can cause advanced microvascular disease, also called small vessel disease because it affects the small arteries. The combination of these two conditions can trigger a rare complication called diabetic myonecrosis. Diabetic myonecrosis usually presents with sudden pain and swelling in the lower leg, thigh or hip. It is most common in people in their 40s but it can happen at any age. The condition can be treated with pain management and strict blood sugar control. Most patients recover but it comes back for more than 50 percent of patients. Because this disease indicates that there is serious damage to the circulatory system, the long-term outlook is poor.4

Sleep Apnea

More than half of people with type 2 diabetes patients also have a condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA causes temporary pauses in breathing while sleeping. This can be dangerous because the brain may not get enough oxygen in addition to the sleep deprivation. Diabetes is also associated with other related sleep disorders such as snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness.5

Reports have shown that there may be a link between diabetes and OSA because blood glucose can affect the respiratory system. When combined, the two disordered can increase a person’s risk for stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.5

OSA is often treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. The CPAP machine connects to a mask that is worn during sleep and it creates continuous air pressure to keep oxygen levels steady. Maintaining a healthy weight along with diet and exercise are also recommended to prevent further complications.5

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